"Hopefully I'll get it on track this year," says Villegas, who finished no better than T-8 in his last 10 PGA Tour events in 2010. "I'm working hard on it."
What would be nice, he says, is a year similar to 2008, when he finished second in the FedEx Cup with two victories and a third-place finish in the final three weeks of the season. Or even better, it might be time for the 29-year-old Colombian to win his first major. To do that, Villegas says he has to start driving the ball better. His distance numbers have dropped from a career-best average of 309.7 yards per drive in 2004 to 289.6 in 2010, and his accuracy improved only slightly (61.7 percent of fairways hit in '10 compared with 59.1 percent in '04).
"Last year, my hands were getting too far from my body as I swung down, and my club was staying too far behind," he says. "The only way I could hit the ball solid was if my hands caught up in time."
Villegas has been working with swing coach Kevin Smeltz to get his left arm swinging down closer to his chest. When that happens, Villegas can keep the club more out in front of him. The goal is to hit higher-trajectory tee shots, preferably a draw, to take advantage of his athleticism and rubber-band like flexibility. Villegas' dedication to the gym is as impressive as that of anyone who has played pro golf. It would be an incredible waste not to take advantage of that, Smeltz says.
"We're trying to get rid of the steepness in his backswing and improve his hip turn, which was too level," Smeltz says. "We want his left hip going down in the backswing with some arm rotation to shallow his takeaway. Coming down, his right hip needs to feel lower as he shifts his weight and keeps it in the arch of his left foot longer. This improves his arm position, and he hits it better.
"There's a lot to work on, but it certainly isn't about making his swing look prettier. It's about making it more functional."